December 15, 2011

A Pile of Severed Feet

I really love Fred Vargas's mysteries, so when Shelf Awareness sent me her latest book to review, I was ecstatic! Part of this review was originally written for them.

The delightfully vague Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his pedantic colleague Danglard are in London for a conference. They happen to be present when DCI Radstock, from Scotland Yard, discovers a pile of severed feet in front of Highgate Cemetery. The strange scene is still in their minds when they get back to France and are called to a grisly murder scene.

Although the victim, Pierre Vaudel, wasn’t particularly well liked, it’s unclear why someone would annihilate his body in such gruesome fashion. Adamsberg then finds himself letting the prime suspect go, for reasons he can’t quite explain. Unfortunately for the longsuffering junior officers who report to Adamsberg, he continues to ponder this as the investigation progresses and he amasses old rumors and the seemingly insignificant tidbits of information that flow through his sieve-like mind.

In typical Fred Vargas style, she lets Adamsberg meander down this confused path until a sudden revelation connects the feet to Vaudel, and Adamsberg has a breakthrough, which leads him to Serbia and an ancient secret. The story kicks into high gear then as Danglard realizes that someone high up is protecting the murderer, and trying to frame Adamsberg for the crime. Adamsberg and Danglard must work together to find out who the killer is, and who is framing Adamsberg before it’s too late. An Uncertain Place is another superb mystery by Fred Vargas, which will leave her fans waiting impatiently for the eighth in the series to be translated into English.

Without giving too much away, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at the direction the book took once Adamsberg was in Serbia. All the rest of Vargas's mysteries have been pretty straightforward procedurals, so I wasn't expecting the paranormal turn this one took. But, I still quite liked it.

It's funny, because I'm sure if I met Adamsberg in real life he'd drive me bonkers, but somehow in literary form he's a very enjoyable character. I think it's the twisty way his mind works -- I enjoy how he pulls all sorts of random trivia into his brain, and then amalgamates it into a cohesive theory and solves the crime.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? As long as she doesn't mind a bit of blood and gore.

Have you read Fred Vargas? Do you mind a little of the paranormal in your mysteries?
P.S. The giveaway is still open! Go leave a comment to enter to win.

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